Monday, July 30, 2007

Feelin' Poor: Induced by a Move to Manhattan

In the late 70's we were DINKs in our late 20's, selling our first house in the 'burbs and heading for Manhattan. We were quite pleased with our real estate luck, having sold the house for about 1/3 more than we paid. We figured we could take the equity and the profit and have a pretty decent down payment for a Manhattan co-op. (If I told you what the prices were in those days, you would laugh, of course. But all that matters about real estate prices is what they are relative to other prices, really.) We were wrong. The brokers I spoke to started off each conversation with a "In your price range ....." I was impressed with how quickly we had become poor. Eventually we purchased a brownstone with 8 apartments, four which we renovated into one large apartment, and maintained the other four as rental properties. As anyone could have predicted, including my husband and I, the cost of all the renovations exceeded the budget routinely. I remember checking out which spaghetti was the cheapest at the Shopwell around the corner. But of course this was temporarily induced poverty, not the real thing. Our sweat equity - measured in fleas, cockroaches, plaster dust, obnoxious rent-stabilized New York City tenants, bursting radiators, and the smells from the RibCrib across the street on hot summer days - was a great investment in the end.
Eventually we moved to Philadelphia, which has always had great housing for much lower prices than other east coast cities. (If you want to feel loaded, at least temporarily, move from Manhattan to Philly!)

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